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How to Take Advantage of Tech in the Classroom

Because I am historically a homeschool mom, our classroom usually had tons of technology in it, because it had whatever tech we were using at home.  It definitely had its advantages.  But it also came with some drawbacks.  We learned very quickly how to take advantage of tech in the classroom.  We also learned very quickly what things we would need to curb in order to keep our days productive.

That being said, regardless of what kind of classroom you are teaching in, there is some amazing tech that you could be using in your classroom to help bring even the most boring lessons to life.

But wait!  Isn’t this a literature website?  Don’t lovers of literature only read physical books and don’t play video games?  Honestly, I do have to admit that I prefer to read actual books over my Kindle.  In fact, I haven’t even touched my Kindle in months.  But I also love technology when I’m not hating trying to make it work and it’s not sabotaging whatever project I am desperately trying to finish.

In this first of two articles, I would like to go over eight of the best ways to take advantage of tech that we introduced into our classroom and how you can do the same for free or for a great price.

1. VR

Of course, Virtual Reality has to be at the top of the list.  I may be dating myself a little bit here, but I remember sitting in school talking with our class about virtual reality. We were laughing at how it was such science fiction and ridiculous to think about as reality.  I wonder how many in that room that day were thinking to themselves that they would definitely live to see the day.  I was not one of them.  And I can’t tell you how glad I am that I was wrong.

VR is one of the newest additions to our classroom.  It was actually purchased by my oldest (adult) son.  It was his Christmas gift to our family.  By the way, this son was a computer engineering major in college at the time he bought this for his siblings.  He was pretty much born for tech.  I used to get so mad at him back in his earlier school days.  I couldn’t get him to focus on his work.  There was always some electronic device distracting him, or so I thought.  As it turned out, he WAS paying attention all those years while I was yelling at him to put the other stuff down and get his schoolwork done.  Apparently, he is better at multi-tasking than I am.

Best one to buy?

So while I would not necessarily recommend buying an Oculus Quest VR headset, (it is the one we have and we love it, but it would definitely be cost prohibitive in the classroom), there are some really good options on Amazon for some affordable alternatives.  You could get a few and then cycle them out until everyone got a chance.

Google has a VR  that is all about function and none of the frills.  It is called, most appropriately, The Official Cardboard.  Yep, you guessed it, it’s made from cardboard.  It does not have the lowest price tag of all of the basic headsets on the market, but it has the best ratings at that price.  This is truly one of the best ways to take advantage of tech in the classroom.

So what does it do?  First of all, it works through a smartphone.  I don’t know the phone policy of all of the schools in America.  But for those school that allow phones, this is a perfect use for them.  For those that don’t, you can always use your phone and supervise them as they are passing it around.  If you have an assistant or parent or two, the sharing becomes much more manageable.   The kids won’t get bored and restless because they are waiting quite as long. (Actually, I have a solution for the waiting on point number 4 below.)  And the ones using it will be wowed beyond their years.

App Recommendations

Some of the things they can see with the VR?  They can explore landmarks and buildings.  There is a pretty amazing Titanic VR program.  It allows them to experience life on the ship, the sinking of the ship, and exploration of the wreckage.  They also learn how to work with the diving equipment and tools.  The company that produced this is Immersive VR Education.  You can see a trailer for it on this YouTube link.

Here is another excellent video from YouTube that showcases some of the best Educational VR apps.  The one that really sold me was at the end.  It is called Tilt Brush.  It is from Google (interestingly, there is a huge amount of VR from Google).  What makes Tilt Brush so amazing is that it allows the student to create in 3D anything that is in their heads.  Because this is a literature site, I will explain how incredible it works in the literature world.  But really, this app is amazing for literally any field of study or entertainment that exists (as well as what doesn’t yet exist!).

So the way you can set up Tilt Brush to work with your literature program is to let the students create whatever is in their mind based on what they read.  They can create their concept of the White Witch’s Castle, Hogwarts, the annex in The Giver, literally any location or item in any book  you are reading.  If that isn’t limitless potential, nothing is!

I could go on about VR in the classroom, but then we won’t get to the rest of the items.  I think I may need to do a blog post or two more about what an amazing addition this is to the classroom.  Oh, and for parents reading this, this is not just amazing for the classroom.  Your kids are going to love learning AND playing with this!

2.  Skype

Skype is amazing for being able to see friends and family from far away and talk with them almost as if they were with you.  But in the classroom, it is a whole new ballgame.  It is an excellent way to take advantage of tech in the classroom.

Teachers can use this to open a whole new world to their students in limitless areas of life.  For example, if you are doing a study on farming, you can interview a farmer from your classroom.  You can Skype with an author of a book you are doing in class and find out why they wrote the book, why they chose the characters and what basis it had in their life, how the settings in the book were developed, and literally anything else you and your students can think of.  You can even talk with the author about what experiences in their lives brought them to the writing of the book being discussed.

Bringing reality into the classroom in this way helps your students to see that they are indeed learning about real life, even though it doesn’t always seem like it in class.  You are actually bringing real life into the classroom in a way that allows the students to see what that looks like.  The hard part for you will be where to implement it because you can use it for every single thing you are teaching.  Except you will not have enough time to use it to its full potential.  It will be a great treat when you do, though!

3.  Podcasts

This one can be a little trickier.  While you will definitely have auditory learners in your classroom, it could be difficult to keep the attention of the more visual and tactile learners.  But if you keep it fairly short you should be able to keep everybody engaged.

This makes a perfect companion to Skype.  While you will have more options than you can put into your classroom time with Skype, there will still be some limitations with it that Podcasts can fill in the gaps for.

For example, say you are working on a literature book that the author is no longer alive.  You certainly can’t Skype them.  But you can find an interview that was done at some point in the past and share that in the form of a Podcast.

The same is even more true for living authors that you would not be able to book because they are way beyond the ability to spend personal time with every class that requests it.  A perfect example of this is J.K. Rowling.  If you were able to get her to Skype into your class for a session on Harry Potter, then you would be the most amazing teacher in the world!  But since that would be an extremely tall order, you can always play a podcast of an interview that she has already done. Just choose an interview that would cover the topics your class is interested in.

4.Digital Learning Centers

I already alluded to this idea in the section on VR.  This is the perfect solution to keeping all of your kids engaged when there is now way you can provide personal electronic equipment for each student in your class.  This method allows you to have one or a few of each media that rotates through the class.

Here are some examples that would allow you to section your class into 5 groups:

  • tv or equivalent  for watching an educational video
  • VR equipment for bringing what they learn in the video to life
  • tablet or computer for Skype
  • phone or digital device for podcast
  • and finally, a good, old-fashioned book station to prove that books are still contenders in today’s tech-savvy world!

You can provide even more stations than this with a little bit more thought or research.  But this is a start.  Each station can be reinforcing the same or similar concepts so that kids are truly immersed in what they are learning.  And they don’t even realize that this is adding practicality to a classroom that must run on a budget.

5.  A Tech Nook for Students Who Finish their Work Early

This is a great way to take advantage of tech in the classroom. In the past, teachers told kids that finished their work early to read a book, color a picture, or write in their journal.  Those still remain great options.  I would definitely keep them on the table.  And surely, some kids will prefer to read or draw.

With a little bit of prep work, teachers can plan some technology supported activities that reinforce what they are working on in the classroom.  A short video that repeats concepts learned makes a great example.  Online games that let them play through rounds to confirm what they have learned make perfect options as well.

I think the idea here is to keep the kids from getting bored while they wait for others to finish.  The only caveat I see here is that if you have children who would rather play video games all day than do anything else, you don’t necessarily want them filling in gaps of time with more of the same.  So maybe making the nook portable helps with that situation.  You can pull it out on certain days of the week or after certain milestones are hit.  You could also implement it into a reward program.

6.  Personal Blogs for Students

I found this concept online when looking for ideas for my kids.  I never would have thought of giving that to my kids, even though I have been doing it for some time!

What a perfect way this is to take advantage of tech in the classroom because it allows the kids to exercise their creativity.  You can  supervise in the background and give occasional feedback and encouragement.  The best part of this: the students are learning language arts while also exercising the creativity that can so easily get stifled in the classroom with some of the more routine exercises.

WordPress will allow you to set up blogs for your students for free.  You will just need to do a little bit of research and prep. Then you will easily be able to set it up and have it  ready to go with the kids.

You also may want to procure a teacher’s assistant or parent that can help out.  That will allow you to set up all of the students on their new blogs.

Your students will love this because it is allowing them to do their own thing.  And they will get the satisfaction of watching it build.  Parents will also love to see what their kids are building.

This is just one more example of taking advantage of tech in the classroom that allows the kids to get a glimpse of real life.

7.  Play Games!!!

I did this early on in our tech days with my older kids.  Back then, most of the games capitalized on math and spelling/reading concepts.  But over time, the internet has expanded so far beyond what anybody could have dreamed.  And with that, the educational options also exploded.  Countless options abound in every subject you can imagine.  That makes it perfect for you to implement in your classroom for the basics.  But it allows your students to expand their horizons exponentially when you encourage them to find other games or projects online that cater to their own personal interests.  They learn more in the fields they are interested in, you are able to help them discover those fields, and everybody is happy!

One thing that really helps in this area is being able to relate personally to your students throughout the day.  The more that you are interacting with them on a personal level, the more you will get glimpses into what they love.  And that will help you to tailor their education to what works the best for them and expands their world outward from the classroom.  Years later, they will remember the roots of that learning and where it got them to where they end up.  What a great reward for teachers to see where their work ended up!  I could actually make several blogs on all of the great games that could enhance the classroom learning environment.  I will put that on the list, but if you have suggestions of your favorites, let me know!

8.  MindMeister

Mind Meister is a Mind Mapping program.  What that basically means is that it it takes all of the random information that you throw at it and helps you to organize it in a perfectly ordered way.  As the map develops, it then allows you to visually see the progress that has been made.  This process also allows for faster learning because of the organization aspect.

This program has been around for about 5 years and is pretty amazing.  They produced an excellent video on YouTube that explains more efficiently than I can how they assist students and teachers.  The biggest reason this program excels is because it links everything together so well.  You and your students can brainstorm for a project and it all goes together. So nobody can forget what someone else said or added because it is all there.  If a student thinks of something while on the bus to go home, they can quickly add it to the program with their phone.  No ideas disappear.  Unless it was one of those thoughts just before you fall asleep and its gone by morning because you were too tired to record it in some way.

Conclusion

So here are the first eight ways to take advantage of tech in the classroom.  This article focused more on specific tech activities for the kids that would actively help with their learning.  The next post focuses on  tech ideas that help the teacher to keep her students and classroom details organized.  Here is the link to that article.

As always, if you have more to add, I welcome your thoughts. Just hit the comment section below.  I barely scratched the surface and I know lots of other programs that people have used that have been just as successful.

This Post Has 46 Comments

  1. Ewuzie Kingsley

    Interesting.. I was a little curious to know how Skype is going to be used as a way of educating the kids in a classroom apart from a long distance learning but your explanation makes sense, never though of it that way. Although am not a classroom teacher but as someone who was raised by parents who are both teachers, i will say i know the sacrifice and the kind of difference you are making in the life of your students.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Ewuzie! I appreciate your kind thoughts!

  2. Oh wow, it’s amazing how much tech can enhance learning for kids. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us!

  3. Passion Piece

    These are some really great ideas! I used VR once when I was sightseeing a castle. It was a really spectacular experience and kids would enjoy it for sure. 🙂

    1. Marie

      Oh, my gosh! I would love to sightsee a castle AND use VR to do it! I do have to limit my VR time because I get headaches. But it is so much fun for the times that I do get to use it.

  4. Milica

    Am I the only one who is old school? I really prefer for example books over reading e-books on tablets or computers. But ofc new technologies should be a part of us but still needs to be controlled.

  5. Podcasts are such a great addition. I tune into a couple throughout the week. Makes it easier to catch up with trends.

  6. onceuponadollhouse

    Using tech in the classroom is so innovative! We love the 8 ways to take advantage of tech that you talked about – especially VR! very cool.

  7. Candace Hampton

    I wish I had all of these features when I was a kid. It’s definitely makes more fun and interactive the dynamics. I like that teachers are being more open to incorporate different techniques. Interesting educational ideas.

    1. Marie

      Thank you Candace. It works especially well when school admin lets the teachers exercise creativity in the classroom!

  8. Nyxinked

    Podcasts and brain training apps have always had a place in the learning in my opinion. Teachers should be taking this new technology and using it to their advantage. I’ve learned so much from podcasts, youtube etc.

    1. Marie

      I know a lot of them are, and taking the creativity even further than that. There are some really good teachers in just about every school!

  9. brianmayroam

    Nowadays, there’s no excuse for not listening to at least a podcast or two per week! If you really can’t, watch something educational on YouTube!

  10. Amber

    Nice list! My daughter loves when her middle school classroom uses tech. She’d love VR glasses, but sadly they don’t have those. Maybe one day!

    1. Marie

      I hope someday those end up in every classroom. They are so awesome and the potential to educate with them is limitless.

  11. Chad

    These are amazing ideas and yes absolutely, tech should be part of our educational system, not just as tools or for experimentation but also to teach the tech itself.

  12. Peter Nyiri

    I must say that the world has changed so much since I was going to school.
    We didn’t have all this… The computer I was studying programing in my spare time has 16 KB of RAM. It had a cassette player to load games…
    Still today’s children don’t appreciate much of this – drop their iPhone so that it becomes all broken, etc.

    1. Marie

      Yes, Peter. It is a totally different world than when I was in school. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Passion Piece

    I love these ideas! I think personal blogs for students would be quite interesting, as that would improve their creativity and writing skills. I’m just scared that in conventional reality there may be little space for such creative activities. 🙂

    1. Marie

      You are right, there would have to be sacrifice somewhere. But the creativity and multiple other things learned simultaneously would increase learning over other somewhat outdated classroom activities.

  14. This is nice! I think it’s important for people to teach kids how to properly use technology to their advantage, not just to escape reality!

    1. Marie

      Exactly! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  15. Gladys Nava

    Such great lists! And it is important to know how to limit using technology. Thanks for sharng this!

  16. Esther

    My son is only 3 and the playing games is what he loves the most! When he gets older i will get him into the other things. These kids have so much opportunity

    1. Marie

      He will hit the ground running because of what you are doing with him now. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Cinny

    I think it’s nice to be innovative for the classroom especially in these times. I think VR would be interesting.

  18. Rose Ann Sales

    I was currently in the search for a good VR. Thanks for recommending one.

  19. Heather

    I am pretty sure that technology is my daughter’s favorite part of the classroom. I am looking forward to the day when it’s safe for them to go back so they can enjoy it again.

  20. Nkem

    I love the idea of a tech nook and a personal blog for students. The former compartmentalizes the technology so it doesn’t become a distraction and the latter gets the students thinking beyond the classroom.

  21. Brianne

    The world is so much different now than it was when I was in school. Our technology was a tube TV and a VCR strapped to a rolling rack. Kids today are super sophisticated, and they love tech. I love the idea of using that to the teacher’s advantage.

  22. VR and maybe AR would be of help — especially nowadays with online learning! Anyway, my fave tip was about doing a Skype call to someone remotely. That would get my attention as a child — to see someone “in action”!

  23. Emily Fata

    My younger brother recently got a VR headset, and I was talking to him about how this is definitely the tech of the future for education!

  24. Hhhhhmmmm….schooling could use more Virtual Reality! It will give us all another perspective.

  25. Bella

    I have never tried VR before looks so neat. I get better motion sick so i dont know if i would do well with it.

  26. Matt Taylor

    Those are all great ideas. I think virtual reality will be huge in the near future, having had the opportunity to play around with it. It is a very exciting technology indeed.

  27. the joyous living

    technology keeps advancing and advancing! how do you discourage the kids from fighting over the VR system? 🙂

  28. World in Eyes

    Glad you shared this amazing information with us..Sounds really amazing and very interesting one..great work though..

  29. Very powerful and interesting at the same time. I’ll look in a couple that you got me interested.
    I really enjoy reading your posts. They are written with a unique perspective and caring mind. Thank you for that.

  30. chei

    These are great information. Virtual Reality is the new normal schooling here in Philippines.

  31. Emman Damian

    It’s easier to exchange information now. Also, it’s fun to learn now though e-learning!

  32. Emman Damian

    It’s easier to share information now. Also, it’s easier to transfer documents and to get in touch with other teachers.

  33. rachel

    These are all really great tips! I love the idea of using VR

  34. tweenselmom

    Technology really does give us a lot of benefits! Thanks for sharing these tips with us!

  35. Ressa

    This is such a great post – I’ll have to share this information with my teacher friends! Thanks for sharing!

  36. Eloise

    this post is very helpful for those who are getting used to the distance learning process… I would have never thought to get the VR fro schooling, I’ll have to think about it a little bit more for my kids because who knows when this pandemic will be over!

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